It is evident to most Jews who care about the Jewish future that, individual exceptions in every movement notwithstanding, the one successful movement in contemporary Jewish life is Chabad.
So, then, what is Chabad to do now?
I ask this question because Chabad is entering a new and challenging phase. There are simply not enough Jews in the world to keep opening Chabad Houses at the rate it has in the last 25 years. This is a personal tragedy for the many young Chabad rabbis who ache to become shluchim (emissaries). And it is a tragedy for the larger Jewish world because these Chabad Houses add Jewish vitality wherever they are present.
Having spoken at Chabad Houses for decades, and after many discussions with Chabad rabbis, I offer two suggestions.
The first is to open many more Chabad Houses at colleges throughout America, Canada and elsewhere in the Western world. Aside from the natural sciences and math, Western universities have become breeding grounds for moral idiots. Attitudes toward Israel are a superb example. The most anti-Israel institution in the West is the university. That alone reveals the broken moral compass of the universities.
As described in my last column, recently I debated at Oxford University. My two adversaries were an Oxford professor and a young Oxford doctoral candidate. Among other factual and moral lies, one or both described Israel as doing to Palestinians what the Nazis had done to the Jews, as an apartheid state, and as launching wars against Hamas, which they depicted as the victim of Israeli aggression…
No place needs a Chabad House as much as the university. There is virtually nothing morally or spiritually elevating at these campuses. Chabad could provide both, if it chooses to. That means locating at colleges and being proactively pro-Israel, pro-religion, pro-objective morality, pro-God, pro-the Ten Commandments.
My other suggestion is Chabad open houses where are there are few, or even no, Jews.
What would Chabad do in such places? It would do what Jews haven’t done in thousands of years, either out of ignorance of the Jewish role in the world or because of anti-Semitism: Spread ethical monotheism. That is the theological term for God-based ethics.
The Jews are the Chosen People in order to be God’s messenger. But the Jews are a messenger who forgot his message.
The tragic irony is that Orthodox Jews have forgotten that we have a message for the world. Non-Orthodox Jews are quite busy bringing a message to mankind — not on behalf of Judaism or ethical monotheism, but on behalf of the most dynamic religion in the world for the last hundred years: leftism. These Jews are preoccupied with telling the world that God is not necessary for morality; that Western society should be secular; that carbon emissions will destroy the world; that male and female no longer matter; that the married-father-and-mother family is no longer an ideal; that Israel is morally wrong; that “war is not the answer”; that material inequality is the greatest evil (closely followed by climate change); that no society or culture is better than any other; that fundamentalist Christians and Jews are the moral equivalent of fundamentalist Muslims, among other left-wing doctrines.
Almost no one is bringing the authentic Jewish message to the world — that there is one God of all people and that this God’s primary demand is that human beings treat each other decently. You don’t need to be Jewish to go to heaven, you just have to live by basic moral laws and recognize that God is behind these moral laws.
Chabad does in fact believe in spreading what is known as the Seven Laws of Noah. From the Chabad “Universal Morality” website:
“When the Lubavitcher Rebbe began speaking about publicizing [the Noahide Laws] as a preparation for a new era, he was reviving an almost lost tradition.”
Doing that should be regarded as important as getting Jews to put on tefillin. In order to make a better world — to usher in the Messianic Age, if you will — we have to spread ethical monotheism; to bring the world to the God of the Ten Commandments. And, though it may be seem ironic, nothing will attract alienated Jews as much as seeing religious Jews talk to the world, not just to Jews.
Because no other Jewish group will do it, it is up to Chabad to do so. And in order to achieve that mission, there will never be enough shluchim.
Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host (AM 870 in Los Angeles) and founder of PragerUniversity.com. His latest book is the New York Times best-seller “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins, 2012).